Get Your Library Ready for the Celestial Event of the Century!

Keliann LaConte, STAR_Net /

A Boy Scout Troop practices using safe solar viewing glasses and special binoculars in preparation for the solar eclipse. Image courtesy of Valley of the Tetons Library.Ancient cultures were surprised by and terrified of solar eclipses. Today, thanks to centuries of scientific observations, we know when and where the solar eclipse will be visible – we can plan ahead and turn this celestial event into a community celebration! See below for examples of how libraries are celebrating the solar eclipse, as well as resources and opportunities for getting your own library involved.

Learn More: On August 21, 2017, the Moon’s shadow will fall directly over a 60-mile-wide area and sweep across the continental United States. Those sky watchers along this “zone of totality” will be treated to a total solar eclipse – a celestial spectacle that hasn’t been visible in the continental U.S. in nearly 40 years. Other parts of North and Central America will see a partial eclipse, in which the Moon covers only a portion of the Sun. Download the FREE 2017 Solar Eclipse Guide, written by astronomers and educators Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz, for more details.   

Apply for Free Materials: Thanks to support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Google, and Research Corporation, the Space Science Institute will provide 2 million glasses that will be distributed to more than 2,200 public libraries. The libraries will be selected through an application process managed by the STAR Library Education Network (STAR_Net) and its NASA@ My Library initiative. Public libraries can apply for free eclipse glasses and an education kit at Deadline: May 1, 2017

Get Ready with Online Training!:  Learn how to facilitate activities that will have your patrons asking, “Really!?!,” and exclaiming “That’s so cool!” with the webinar, “Crowd-pleasing Hands-on Activities for Your Eclipse Programs, recorded April 26, 2017. View Presentation Slides | View WebEx Recording 

Try Some Hands-on Activities: Visit the STAR_Net STEM Activity Clearinghouse and find step-by-step activity guides, books, and videos to support your programs in the 2017 Solar Eclipse collection. Try Making a Solar Eclipse Book, How Can the Little Moon Hide the Giant Sun?, Pinhole Viewer: Shoebox Version, and Sun Cookies.

Programming Ideas:

The Carmel Clay Public Library (Carmel, IN) will use catchy program titles to draw people in to a series of eclipse-related programs. Colleen Card, Senior Assistant ILL Department, describes their lineup: “The first event, scheduled for June 8th, 2017, is a multimedia presentation by Link Observatory Space Science Institute titled ‘The Great American Eclipse: Standing in the Shadow of the Moon.’ Our second event is our ‘Eclipse Extravaganza’ on August 12th, 2017, offering daytime telescope views, music, and food, and a focus on eclipse viewing safety. We will offer free solar viewing glasses, and will also present a display of Women in STEM throughout history. Our third event, 'Stand in the Shadow,' with live, indoor streaming on the big screen will be held August 21st, the day of the solar eclipse.”

The George Coon Public Library (Princeton, KY) is thinking “safety,” especially in the summer heat! They will have water, sunscreen, snacks, and ice pops starting at 9:00 a.m. on the day of the eclipse. “We will also have a couple of shade canopies up,” adds Nichelle Faughn, Director. “We will also hand out the viewing glasses and information on safe viewing practices of the Solar Eclipse.”

April Green, Youth Services Librarian at the Catawba County Library (Newton, NC), outlines her plans for keeping young patrons engaged: “In preparation for the total eclipse of the sun on August 21, will partner with a local astronomy club and local schools to host a National Eclipse Days where participants can explore five Eclipse learning centers:

  1. create a solar eclipse book
  2. learn how distance affects size perception demonstrating how the little moon can hide the giant sun
  3. create a pinhole projection box
  4. watch sample videos of total eclipses of the sun
  5. create a sugar cookie model of the sun.”

To reach adults, the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library (New Bern, NC) will tailor their event as a community read, where everyone across three counties is invited to read the same book at the same time. “This time,” Director Susan Simpson explains, “we will ask everyone to learn and talk about eclipses and the solar system, with the main event the eclipse itself. We have several science university campuses here that will help us with special programming for all ages including lectures, demonstrations, and projects (like building solar systems with LEGOs). A special program will be devoted to the word ‘eclipse’ and what it means scientifically, but also in literary works.”

National events, like the solar eclipse, have high enough visibility to attract the attention of the broader local community and bring resources together for a common purpose. Each event is an opportunity for libraries to connect with expertise and resources from STEM organizations in the community. Jefferson County Library – Arnold will partner with the city of Arnold (MO) during their special weekend long celebration, which features a farmer’s market, car show, craft and science activities, contests, live music – and Solar Eclipse Storytime Stories and activities to help little ones get ready for the big event. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library (Vancouver, WA) has partnered with a local amateur astronomer and a NASA Solar System Ambassador.

Food draws in the crowds! The Springfield City Library (Indian Orchard, MA) will serve moon pies and sun tea to all participants (along with helpings of books, articles and magazines for patrons to get more information about the eclipse and astronomy in general!). A few branches will be hosting a “Solar Sundae Monday” – with ice cream sundaes! Two branches will offer a model of the solar eclipse. Check out the how-to video and step-by-step instructions for modeling eclipses with patrons at your library through the activity, Why Do Eclipses Happen? (Yardstick Eclipse Demonstration).

The Western Pocono Community Library (Brodheadsville, PA) is ready with a rain plan! They will move the event indoors and have "eclipse videos" ready to be shown. Showing NASA’s Eclipse MEGACAST: Live Streaming Video, for example, will allow everyone to participate in this celestial event in case of rain. Western Pocono Community Library Director Carol Kern won’t let the fun stop there! “The day after the event we will come together and talk about the event by asking the question: ‘How did you feel as the event was happening?’"

We hope you will join us in celebrating the solar eclipse!

Image, top right. A Boy Scout Troop practices using safe solar viewing glasses and special binoculars in preparation for the solar eclipse. Image courtesy of Valley of the Tetons Library (Driggs, Idaho).